To say that new Chattanooga Theatre Centre Executive Director Rodney Van Valkenburg is familiar with the organization would be like saying Shakespeare knew his way around a plot.
Van Valkenburg, who will assume the position Aug. 1, spent 18 years at the North Shore venue before moving over to ArtsBuild (formerly Allied Arts), the organization charged with promoting and fundraising for area arts organizations, for the last 19 years.
In addition to the front-office work he did at the theater during his tenure, Van Valkenburg has also been involved in hundreds of productions as a director, producer and actor over nearly four decades.
At ArtsBuild, in addition to serving as interim president, he served as director of grants and initiatives and director of communications and arts education. At the theater center, he served as part of a two-person executive team following 13 years as the theater's first full-time youth and education director.
His wife, Julie, is the theater's marketing director.
"It is a very unique opportunity," he said of his return to the venue.
"But, I really want to stress how much I've enjoyed working with James," Van Valkenburg said. "He is doing a great job and is expanding the organization in exciting ways.
About Rodney Van Valkenburg
* At ArtsBuild, he partnered with the Benwood Foundation to develop an Equity in the Arts grant program, secured funding from Usher’s Nancy Lackey Community Education Fund to place artists in schools that do not have visual art teachers, expanded the Holmberg Arts Leadership Institute, coordinated participation in annual state and national Arts Advocacy Days, engaged over 150 community groups to apply for grant funding, and authored and co-authored successful grant proposals to local, state, and national organizations.
* Has been an Advisory Committee member of the Kennedy Center’s Partners in Education Program and a grant panelist for the National Endowment for the Arts and the Tennessee Arts Commission.
* Chaperoned a group of young people from the theater to the International Theatre Camp in Narva, Estonia, in the former Soviet Union, as Artistic Director of the camp.
* Was also recognized as Youth Theatre Director of the Year by the American Alliance for Theatre and Education.
* Served as an executive committee member of the Southeastern Theatre Conference, the largest theatre service organization in the U.S., and is past president and a recipient of the Distinguished Achievement Award from the Tennessee Theatre Association.
* Earned his MFA in Child Drama from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, North Carolina, and a BFA in Theatre from Indiana University in Indiana, Pennsylvannia.
"What's exciting for me is what I gained at Allied Arts and ArtsBuild. I have a deeper relationship with all the arts organizations and the artists, and what I bring back is a community sense. It is really embraced as a community theater."
Van Valkenburg said continuing the center's recent community outreach work, such as holding auditions in area churches and recreation centers, is a top priority along with fundraising and development.
The key to developing that outreach is being intentional and consistent, he said. Holding special events targeted toward a particular segment of the community once or twice a year doesn't work, he added.
"It has to be a priority. Especially in this day and age," he said.
Van Valkenburg said many theaters across the country base their success, especially financially, on ticket sales and too often miss the mark when it comes to overall development.
"With all arts organizations, fundraising has to be much stronger," he said. "Ultimately it is about fundraising and development."
Board President Mitch Collins said he believes Van Valkenburg is the right leader for the organization.
"The CTC search committee did an extensive nationwide search for our new executive director and found him right here at home in Chattanooga," Collins said. "We were looking for someone with strong theater experience, community leadership and innovative thinking to guide us through these challenging times and the next stage of our growth.
"Rodney embodies that foundational experience in community theater, is a proven leader in the arts community and continues to impress us with his next level ideas around the staff, volunteers, patrons, and programs."
Van Valkenburg said while his experience with being a part of Chattanooga Theatre Centre's stage productions gives him an added perspective and appreciation for the teamwork it takes to make plays happen, he doesn't feel a personal need to direct, produce or act.
"I'm happy to be focused on managing and focused on things running smoothly," he said.
Van Valkenburg was hired as the Little Theatre's first youth theater director in 1983, when it was known as the Chattanooga Little Theatre. It changed names in 1996.
The 2019-2020 theater center budget is $1.4 million, with $77,750 of that coming from an ArtsBuild grant.
Van Valkenburg touted the 97-year-old organization's facility as a positive. The 40,000-square-foot facility has a 380-seat Main Theatre and a 200-seat Circle Theatre. In addition to having its own scene and costume shops and storage space, dressing rooms, classrooms and rehearsal space, an office suite, a ticket booth and lobby, it can generate non-theater-related income from the parking spaces it owns off River Street in Coolidge Park.
Contact Barry Courter at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6354.